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All posts by Damien Wigley

Keeping Child Car Safety Seats Out of Landfill

A program to recover and recycle old, unwanted and potentially unsafe child car safety seats will take a major step forward with a grant from the Australian Government through the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF).

The grant will enable the development of SeatCare, a program that aims to help the public safely dispose of used child car safety seats for recycling. It is planned that SeatCare will commence in 2021 and if successful the program will be rolled out nationally over two to three years.

Equilibrium, in collaboration with a group of manufacturers, retailers and child safety and automotive organisations, is designing the program that aims to improve road safety while also reducing waste to landfill and costs to the community through illegal dumping of child car safety seats.

Organisations working together on this national initiative include: Baby Bunting, Infasecure, Dorel, Britax, Kidsafe, NRMA, RAA and Equilibrium.

SeatCare aims to provide a unique community service consistent with the targets and priorities in the Australian Government’s National Waste Policy Action Plan.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans MP, said that we are shifting the dial in Australia as we change our mindset to thinking about waste as a resource and move towards a more circular economy.

“This new product stewardship scheme for old, unwanted or obsolete child car safety seats will reduce waste going to landfill, lift recycling rates and help consumers make a practical, positive difference for the environment”.

Child car safety seats have a limited life-span and their integrity can be compromised by factors such as accidents, time/age, temperature and sunlight and general wear and tear from use and moving them in and out of vehicles numerous times.

At present, there is no program to support the take-back of old child car safety seats in Australia. A trial in 2018-2019 found there is a growing public desire for a program and that it is feasible to recover the seats and dismantle them.

It is estimated that over 200,000 child car seats are disposed of every year, with the majority being sent to landfill. This is despite the fact that over 80% of child car safety seats can be recycled once dismantled.

SeatCare aims to provide parents and carers with a free and environmentally-friendly option for disposing of their old child car restraints. By collecting and disassembling the seats on-site, the program aims to divert in excess of 900 tonnes of waste away from landfill and back into the recycling stream.

It is expected that the SeatCare scheme will accept a variety of child car safety seats and associated accessories including:

> Rear facing carriers and forward facing seats
> Booster seats
> Car seat and carrier frames, as well as strapping
> Items that attach directly to the seat or carrier supported by the manufacturer

The NPSIF has been created to support product stewardship schemes which reduce waste and prevent harmful materials from ending up in landfill. These schemes increase recycling activity and the recovery of valuable materials from the products we use every day.

The full Equilibrium media release can be downloaded here

The Ministers’ media release can be viewed here

The list of successful recipients and projects under the NPSIF can be viewed here

For media comment or further information about the SeatCare program, contact Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961 

Manufacturing Strategy Targets Clean Energy and Recycling

Manufacturing is set to receive a boost in certain sectors and industries as part of the Australian Government’s recently released Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

Designed to support and drive ‘economic recovery and future resilience’ the Strategy aims to establish Australia as a nation capable of high-quality production underpinned by science and research.

Creating jobs and scaling-up to become more competitive internationally, are key elements of the strategy, as is the effective use of R&D to achieve applied industry outcomes.

The centrepiece of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy is the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which will see the Government strategically invest in projects that help manufacturers to scale up and create jobs.

Priority industries

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative will support projects within six National Priorities:

1. Resources technology and critical minerals processing
2. Food and beverage
3. Medical products
4. Recycling and clean energy
5. Defence
6. Space

Roadmaps will be prepared for each of the priority industries in collaboration with industry.

The Strategy will also address the competitiveness of individual manufacturers in the priority sectors, with a $52.8 million expansion of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund.

The Strategy is in part a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and aims to provide a plan to better address identified supply chain weak-spots and vulnerabilities.

Creating internationally competitive manufacturing industries in Australia, necessarily requires attention to environmental  management, as well as informed sustainability advice. There are significant opportunities across the six priorities when it comes to exploring commercially relevance sustainability outcomes.

If your business or association is looking to better understand the Modern Manufacturing Strategy and the associated support programs, please don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356.

More details about the Strategy can be found here.

The Industry Minister’s media release can be found here.

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Repair

According to MobileMuster, 33 per cent of Australians have repaired their mobile phones and it is expected the number of people reusing devices will increase over time as younger Australians are more likely to opt for repairing or purchasing second hand phones.

Right to Repair is a consumer’s ability to restore faulty goods, or access repairing services, at a competitive price. This can include repairing by a manufacturer, a third-party, or self-repair.

The inquiry will consider a range of issues impacting the Australian repair market, including potential barriers and enablers of greater competition.

It will draw on international experience and examine Right to Repair mechanisms that support consumer rights, promote competition in the repair market, and encourage product design requirements to extend product life and reduce e-waste.

The Productivity Commission will undertake broad public consultation, including with state and territory governments. The inquiry is due to report to Government within twelve months.

The terms of reference can be found at the Productivity Commission website.

Repairing a product can be a strategy for waste avoidance and reduction in some product classes, including vehicles, consumer electronics, IT equipment and appliances.

If your company, industry association or local council is looking to explore and understand the relevance of repairing a product as part of the waste management process, please don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356.

Next Level Product Stewardship Keynote Session

The relevance of product  stewardship is gaining momentum in policy circles and several industries, but how do we move beyond collection and recycling schemes to more effectively address life-cycle environmental priorities and stimulate new business opportunities?

Equilibrium’s John Gertsakis will be presenting one of the keynote sessions at the SA Waste & Resource Recovery Conference being held from the 28-29 October 2020 at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Hosted by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, the the conference theme for 2020 is ‘outside the square, inside the circle’. John’s presentation will discuss why product stewardship needs to step-up and take more practical action back up the supply chain and across the product or material life-cycle.

Yesterday’s stewardship models, while important necessary, are proving inadequate in many cases and fail to genuinely embed key circular economy principles such as product durability, reuse, repair and alternative consumption models.

The Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 and the proposed Centre of Excellence, provide a timely launching point for John’s presentation to consider how Australia might accelerate the adoption of product and materials stewardship across diverse industries and sectors.

The transition to a circular economy will require smarter solutions that acknowledge the role of circular design in preventative measures rather than current scenarios focused on managing end-of-life products and materials.

John will discuss how stewardship can achieve greater gains by being life-cycle oriented and outcome focused.

The SA Waste & Resource Recovery Conference will feature a range of speakers  discussing product stewardship and provides a well-timed forum to explore how the Australia’s immense talent can ‘turbo-charge’ the successful uptake of next-level product stewardship policy and operations.

The full conference program is now available and can be viewed here.

For more information on John and the rest of the team, visit our About Us page.

Government Funding for Energy Projects

The Commonwealth and State Governments currently have many programs to support businesses in improving their power usage and efficiency. The following grants provide either direct funding or credits for energy audits and programs to reduce emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Fund is open for all eligible Australian businesses wanting to reduce their carbon emissions. Participants in the scheme can earn Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent they store or avoid emitting by using new practices and technologies. These ACCUs can then be sold to generate income for your business.

New South Wales’ Energy Savings Scheme provides businesses with financial incentives to reduce their energy consumption by installing new equipment or modifying a current system. Savings will be converted into Energy Saving Certificates (ESCs) which are sold to an electricity retailer.

South Australia offers businesses and not-for-profit organisations the Resource Efficiency and Productivity (REAP) Grants. This program provides a 50% subsidy for resource efficiency and productivity assessments to consider circular economy options including electricity efficiency. An additional $10,000 is available on successful completion of an assessment to kick-start implementation of the recommendations.

Funding of $150,000 is available for Tasmanian Businesses to carry out energy audits on business operations and buildings in the state through the Power$mart Businesses program.

ACT has two grant programs: The Next Generation Energy Storage (Next Gen) Program and ACTSmart Business Energy and Water Program which provide businesses with rebates when installing battery storage systems or upgrading to more energy-efficient and water-efficient technologies and equipment.

The Smarter Business Solutions Program offers grant funding incentives of up to $20,000 for Northern Territory enterprises to adopt efficient, innovative technologies and best practices that will reduce their energy, water, waste and material costs.

If your business is interested in further information on any of these grants, or would like assistance completing an application, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Be sure to stay up to date with our blog posts to get updates on Government grants.

Virtual Site Audits in Covid-19 Restrictions

With Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disrupting businesses on a number of levels, Equilibrium has been working with our clients on bringing back businesses’ normal activities and maintaining a presence in state lock-down situations and travel restrictions.

Many compliance systems rely on physical site visits to audit a company or facility to assess if it is meeting any specific environmental management requirements and is operating in a way that protects its workers’ health and safety. While restrictions make it difficult to undertake these audits in the traditional sense, Equilibrium has developed a protocol for performing remote virtual audits.

The procedure has been developed rapidly over the past 4 months to ensure our clients are still able to participate in an audit program. It closely aligns with existing audit methodology, covering all the same aspects, such as environmentally sound practices, regulation safety, and legitimacy but is flexible enough to be expanded and altered for many other applications.

The audit utilises smart phone live stream applications to enable a virtual walk through of operational areas. Through the app, Equilibrium directs the site representative to live stream areas of potential concern based on previous audit reports and the most recent satellite imagery.

This process does not require any new technology or substantial equipment as it simply uses the site representative’s mobile device. There is potential depending on the app for the audit to be recorded as well, further adding evidence to the audit findings.

As per previous developed protocols, the audits are undertaken in combination and in parallel with data analysis and documentation reviews, allowing for much of the preliminary assessment to be completed online.

Unsure of when restrictions will ease or increase in any region, developing a protocol and capability to effectively carry out virtual audits is crucial to ensuring companies maintain compliance requirements, upholding the safety and sustainability of their operations.

If you are interested in discussing virtual audits, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

NGER Reporting is Now

It’s time to start to gather your data again and report in line with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) scheme.

With reports due on 31 October it doesn’t leave much time for determining if your organisation is required to submit a report and if you do, that all of the information you provided meets the requirements of the Act and its subordinate legislation.

Given the current situation it may be that your reporting boundary has changed and your company no longer meets a facility or corporate group threshold for any of the reporting criteria.  You might also need to review your activities and determine the operational control over these activities and your facilities. See the guideline for more information.

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) provides helpful clarification about reporting part year operational control and what organisations need to consider when there are instances of acquisitions, disposals or mergers within the reporting period.

All energy consumed and produced by facilities that are under the operational control of the organisation must be reported which in turn allows the CER to identify scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions.  Other activities including fuel combustion and potentially, depending on your industry, refrigerant gas emissions also need to be considered and reported.

If you are a new reporting entity, familiarising yourself with the methods provided by the CER with identifying emissions sources can save time before preparing your report, particularly if some of the data sources are estimated.

In addition to the links provided, The CER has developed an EERS User Guide and many other guidance documents to assist reporters in complying with their NGER obligations. Visit Clean Energy Regulator for these resources.

Equilibrium can also assist with your NGER reporting, so if you require any information or support, please contact the Equilibrium team on (03) 9372 5356 or at info@equil.com.au

Recycling Bill enters Parliament

Recycling and waste reduction continue to receive unprecedented attention in Australia as governments seek to build a thriving industry that is better equipped to transform waste products and materials into value-added resources.

The Australian Government has today introduced new  legislation that sees Australia take greater responsibility for its waste and establishes a national industry framework for recycling.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 will phase in the end of the 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year.

At the same time the reforms to the regulation of product stewardship will incentivise companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture and what happens to those products and materials at the end of their life.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Bill will see the implementation of the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in March this year.

“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” Minister Ley said. That is why the Morrison Government is the first federal government to place waste firmly on the national agenda.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity as we move to a circular economy with a strong market for recycled materials.

“Our $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund and our actions under the National Waste Policy Action Plan will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years – that is a 32 per cent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector.

“We are introducing legislation; we are driving a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity and we are investing in new technologies and new ideas to transform recycling and reprocessing.”

Accelerating product stewardship activity

Product stewardship has also received a boost through specific adjustments and enhancements under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill.

Assistant Minister Evans said the legislation will improve the existing framework for product stewardship by encouraging companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate through the products they design, manufacture or distribute.

“We are making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes. Yet where voluntary product stewardship schemes are not effective, or where they are not created in priority areas, the government will have new tools to intervene and regulate,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Our legislative changes will transform our waste industry, meaning increased recycling and remanufacturing of waste materials which will create new industry and generate more jobs.”

The Bill and associated package of funding and investment heralds a new era in Australia’s approach to waste management. It reflects a more considered approach aimed at improving our ability to process and manage waste in-country while also maximising the business opportunities resulting from industry-led product stewardship schemes.

Effective implementation across all levels of government and industry will be key to measurable success, as will an informed public demanding environmentally improved products and services built around circular economy principles.

The future of waste reduction, reuse and recycling in Australia is forging new territory based on nationwide collaboration, innovation and the need for manufacturers to take greater responsibility for their products and materials across the the supply chain from cradle to cradle.

The Australian Government’s media release can be viewed here.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 can be downloaded here.

 

Effective Labels Crucial for Better Recycling

Consumers are well placed to make better decisions about how and where to recycle their packaging.  Ensuring that the public is well informed will help reduce contamination and improve overall recycling performance.

An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging has revealed a situation that is confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The audit – conducted by  Equilibrium – took place across supermarkets, take-away outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities, found 88% of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, but that only 40% of these products had a recycling claim present on them.

Additional findings are:

> 55% of imported products and 64% of Australian products sampled displayed a recyclability claim of any kind;
> 23% of products had the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) promoted by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
29% of products had the “Mobius Loop” recycling symbol;
> 29% of plastic products had a resin code symbol which is often mistaken for a recyclability symbol;
> The Tidyman logo appeared on 15% of products sampled, including both recyclable and non-recyclable products; and
> There was no consistent style, placement, or sizing of recyclable labels.

The audit indicates that recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be and contamination  is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70% plastics recycling (from our current 12%).

ACOR fully supports the report’s recommendations, including:

> Labels need to be specific about the management methods of all components, and also include instructions to avoid contamination;
> There needs to be a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market;
> The preferred label should be made mandatory and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and systems as they come online to recycle more products;
> The “Mobius Loop” could cause consumer confusion, and a short cut to achieving greater clarity and consistency is to remove these and plastic resin codes from packaging; and
> There is a role for authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in driving and ensuring clarity and consistency in environmental claims and labels pertaining to recycling.

The ACOR media release published on 20 August 2020 can be viewed here.

The audit report can be downloaded here.

NSW Grants for Solar Panel Reuse and Recycling

The NSW Government is investing $10 million to help improve environmental performance by diverting end-of-life solar panel systems from landfill, with the first round of grants now open.

Although current waste volumes are relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end-of-life. In NSW it is forecast that this waste stream could generate up to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2025 and up to 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

EPA Director Circular Economy Kathy Giunta said the investment in recycling through this Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries.

“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.

“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” Kathy Giunta said.

The NSW Government is now inviting Expressions of Interest for grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems. Applications for projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling can be made until 17 September 2020.

$2 million is available in this funding round, with the remaining funding to be made available following evaluation of this EOI process.

Scoping study

As part of the background to establishing the the circular solar trials fund, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commissioned a scoping study (PDF 3.8MB) to assist in development of the EPA’s end-of-life solar programs. It contains information that may help organisations preparing EOIs, including:

> projected waste generation volumes
> materials that can be recovered from solar panels and batteries
> reuse and recycling technologies
> end-market opportunities

The study was conducted by the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures and Equilibrium.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356 if you need support or help in preparing an EOI for the grant program.

Be sure to stay updated on our blog page for future grant opportunities.

For more information visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/grants/infrastructure-fund/circular-solar-trials-expression-of-interest